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1906 Earthquake Photos

Recently, BYU made public an incredible photo collection from Edith Irvine. She was a early 1900’s photographer with an incredible collection.

The photos that touched me the most were the photos of the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco. With many of the destroyed areas blocked off from photography, somehow Edith was able to get in and get these incredible shots. Images this real are rare. “When the earth shook in San Francisco at 5:15 a.m. on Wednesday, 18 April 1906, followed by devastating fires, Edith Irvine was there. Her photographic distinction undoubtedly rests on her startling ability to capture the moods of this time and place as the family story indicated she “commandeered an abandoned baby buggy” for her photographic equipment and took photographs all day and for as many as three days after. Apparently twenty-two year old Irvine was either staying in San Francisco with a relative or was planning to leave by boat for an around the world voyage at the time of the earthquake and consequently had her photographic equipment with her.”

As I look at the photos, I feel a pain for those sitting on the sidewalks and roads of this beautiful city. The buildings are both grand and rubble at the same time. It’s hard to think of all the beautiful culture and architecture that was lost. With this month being the 100 year anniversary of the tragedy, the photos are especially moving.

I had a bit of trouble seeing all the images in the slow and confusing interface of the original site so, with the help of a friend, I grabbed high resolution copies and made a photoset on Flickr. All credit for this project should certainly go to BYU and the others involved.

Below are a couple of my favorite images. You can see the full collection here. The images are all high resolution, so be sure to look at the larger sizes. The detail is amazing.

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